Sunday, May 24, 2009

Here be geoducks

"Mum! Come here! I found something big and alive!"
I was with my son and daughter on Discovery Park's south beach on a deliciously low tide: -2.5 feet at Elliott Bay.
My son had found a wrinkled and ancient looking siphon sticking out of the sand.
Or rather, a pair of siphons. As we looked more and more we found more of these tough towers of muscle poking up among the eelgrass and muck.
Here's one.

Here's another. (The shoes are my daughter's.)

These are geoducks, the biggest clams ever to dig into a mudflat. Fully grown geoducks average 1.9 pounds, most of it a big fleshy mantle that overflows the gaping shell. They can reach more than 8 pounds and more than 150 years old.
The siphons retreated slowly when the kids poked them. The siphon is just the extended end of the animal, most of which is firmly anchored three feet under the muck -- in the same spot it's been all its adult life. Their name is from a Native American word meaning "dig deep" -- and you'd have to. Don't try to yank them out by their siphon, either. They'll just shed it.
We also found razor clams.

They're a lot easier to pick up.


Amber Coakley said...

Wow - I have never seen anything like that. Amazing - glad to have learned about them from your post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Before the Isthmus of Panama formed, geoducks spread to the East Coast but seem to have died out. I find their large fossils in the Middle Miocene Choptank formation exposed along the Patuxent River in Maryland (age around 16 Myr).